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Colorado Springs collector: "I'll be 9,000 years old, but I'll still have Star Wars"

By: Chhun Sun
December 14, 2016 Updated: December 19, 2016 at 3:24 pm
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photo - Brendan Shank's obsession with Star Wars is out of this world. He owns more than 33,000 Star Wars collectibles that fills every nook and cranny of his basement, even on the ceiling. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
Brendan Shank's obsession with Star Wars is out of this world. He owns more than 33,000 Star Wars collectibles that fills every nook and cranny of his basement, even on the ceiling. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

Brendan Shank met his wife, Nicole, two decades ago. As they were getting to know each other, he told her that he didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't do drugs. But there was one thing she needed to know.

He took a deep breath.

"I collect Star Wars," he told her.

"OK," she said.

"No," he replied. "You have to see it for yourself."

Twenty years later, Nicole still appears amazed by her husband's obsession with all things Star Wars - which are neatly organized on countless shelves, wall units and the ceilings in the sprawling basement of their Colorado Springs home. In all, Shank owns about 32,000 collectibles, ranging from rare action figures and other toys to everyday products like lipstick, bottles of shampoo, lunch boxes, even bags of chips.

"You can bet all the hard things you can't find in the stores (are there)," said Matt Sinclair, Shank's best friend and fellow Star Wars collectible hunter. "You just have to come over and see it."

It doesn't seem likely that many can match the passion and enthusiasm Shank has for Star Wars. He remembers as a kid watching "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" some 16 times during one weekend. His family finally "lost" the VHS tape so they didn't have to watch it one more time. His obsession grew, and he eventually started camping out for several days every time a new Star Wars movie came out.

Last December, he slept in below-freezing temperatures inside a tent with Sinclair for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

But the nights of sleeping outside a movie theater appear over.

For Thursday's local premiere of "Rogue: A Star Wars Story," Shank will stay home until a 7 p.m. showing at Cinemark Tinseltown USA in Colorado Springs. There's no need to wait outside in the cold when moviegoers can easily grab a ticket and a seat through their smartphone.

Shank, 46, doesn't own the world's largest Star Wars collection. That honor belongs to Stephen Sansweet, who has about 300,000 unique items, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Still, any visitor of Shank's will likely be impressed - even overwhelmed - by his basement. The ceilings are decorated with the cardboard displays from action figure sets and the walls are lined with dinner plates, video game consoles, DVD box sets and vintage toys that all pay homage to the characters and storylines of the epic space opera.

He also has a Star Wars pinball machine, a Star Wars soda vending machine and a Star Wars arcade game alongside life-size figures of Darth Maul, Anakin Skywalker, Boba Fett, and a stormtrooper.

The basement boasts seven rooms, most equipped with flat-screen TVs armed with motion detectors. Walk by, fire up a Star Wars movie or behind-the-scenes video.

And if you're wondering if all of this is guarded by an alarm system, the answer is, "Heck yes!"

Shank feels secure, he said. His brother-in-law, who is a Colorado Springs police officer, looks out for him.

Some items are worth thousands of dollars. And many of them are graded for quality, sealed and verified by the Action Figure Authority, which rules on such things. If fire should strike, his collection is insured to about $1 million, he said.

How did he pay for all the memorabilia?

Technically, he's still paying for some of the items.

"I have a wine taste on a beer budget," Shank says. "A lot of layaways and Ramen. I go by what my funds allow me to. People in my price range, I probably beat because I'm more dedicated. If I have a dollar, I'm buying Star Wars. I don't care about eating. I don't care about all that unnecessary stuff."

His collection has affected his personal life, he acknowledged. In 1995, his then-fiancée left him because he "wouldn't grow up," he said, leaving him heartbroken.

But he got over it and kept on collecting.

A year later, he met Nicole, who supports his obsession and drives with him to dozens of stores every Saturday to find the newest Star Wars products. "I think it's awesome," she said. "I love helping him find stuff. I think sometimes I get more excited finding things than he does."

This isn't even his first Star Wars collection. His previous one, begun in 1980, rose to astonishing 100,000 items before he ran into "financial problems" and sold everything for $320,000 in 2005. He then went into collecting vintage arcade games, like Tron, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga.

But in May 2006 his friend Sinclair bought him a Darth Vader Mr. Potato Head and he was quickly again addicted.

Shank doesn't plan on selling any of his treasure again.

He says he's not rich. He know he could make a nice profit by selling a few collectibles. He makes a "normal living" through his landscaping business called Bug Free Tree & Shrub, while Nicole is a delivery driver for Domino's Pizza. They own several cars, and a home with multiple dachshunds and a nearly 100-pound bulldog.

"You'll come here 20 years from now," he said, "and I might be old and gray and I'll be 9,000 years old, but I'll still have Star Wars. I might be living on the street but I'll still have Star Wars."

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